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Tsunami Rebuilding Effort Includes Many Organizations

Last month’s devastating tsunamis in Southeast Asia are perhaps the worst natural disaster in a generation. Said to have killed at least 150,000, the massive waves have also left upwards of a million homeless, and presented an almost unprecedented rebuilding challenge. Disaster-affected buildings range from poorly-constructed slum houses to important civic buildings to architectural and archaeological treasures. While countries around the world are providing substantial monetary aid (the United States has pledged over $350) and resources, and organizations like the Red Cross, Unicef, and the United Nations are providing emergency assistance, an impressive list of organizations are also offering shelter and rebuilding aid, pledging money, as well as architectural and engineering expertise. Such entities include:

1. Architecture For Humanity


Architecture for Humanity, which organizes architectural services for humanitarian crises, is soliciting funds and services to aid much-needed reconstruction in the region.

Money will help develop long-term housing designs and strategies that will, according to AFO Chairman Cameron Sinclair, be highly sustainable and intelligently planned. Possible strategies include use of local materials like thatch, straw-bale, stone, and even recycled shipping containers, although none have been chosen. Without the help of architects and construction, Sinclair adds, such housing can often take the form of temporary refugee camps that turn into poorly-planned, unsanitary, and wasteful permanent housing.

Architects can contribute money or lend their services through the organization’s website,, or through partner organization . AFH is coordinating with larger local NGO’s such as Relief International and the International Medical Corps, and is in discussions with several others.

2. Shelter for Life

Shelter For Life International (SFL), a humanitarian relief and development organization, has been helping rebuild communities affected by civil conflict in Sri Lanka since 1999. With 25 years of experience in providing shelter for families around the world displaced by conflict or natural disaster, SFL offers safe, functional shelter and assistance for those left homeless in Sri Lanka. In response to the present crisis, SFL is targeting to assist 10, 000 families, some 50,000 people, whose homes were destroyed by the tsunami with water, sanitation and temporary shelter. These families will also be provided with emergency supply kits that include critical supplies for water storage, hygiene, cooking and other basic living requirements. The current target area is a stretch of 50 km coastal line, south of the capital Colombo.

3. Relief International

RI provides emergency, rehabilitation and development services that empower beneficiaries in the process. RI’s programs include health, shelter construction, education, community development, agriculture, food, income-generation, and conflict resolution. RI employs an innovative approach to program design and a high quality of implementation performance in demonstrating deep and lasting impact in reducing human suffering worldwide. The organization has dispatched a team that is providing medical care to victims in Sri Lanka, and plans to help victims with both emergency relief as well as long-term restoration of livelihoods and community rebuilding.

4. Global Village Shelters

This New Jersey company produces temporary shelters for emergency situations. The structures are produced from a treated corrugated laminate that is waterproof and infused with a fire retardant, the GV shelter has a footprint of sixty-seven square feet and is equipped with a hinged door made of corrugated PP material. The company is working together with Architecture for Humanity on tsunami-recovery solutions.

5. The American Institute of Architects

The AIA is still developing a coordinated strategy of its own. For now its website offers links to several aid organizations.

6. American Society of Civil Engineers

ASCE's international and technical groups are working with colleagues from several nations to coordinate a technical response. Actions include producing a library of journal articles related to response and mitigation to tsunami events available for free download. ASCE has consulted with technical experts in the field to advise on the possible deployment of a technical assessment team, to respond to public and media inquiries, and to coordinate the provision of technical resources if needed. The organization has established communications with its sister societies in the affected regions to determine the needs of the local professional community as they lead efforts to restore and rebuild the infrastructure.

7. Seabees

Since 1942, more than 750,000 men and women have served as Seabees—a division of the U.S. Navy that handles natural disaster and combat relief construction. The Seabees have aided the Kurdish refugees in Iraq, built schools, roads and hospitals in Somalia and Haiti, built tent camps for Haitian and Cuban refugees in Guantanamo Bay and offered emergency support to victims of hurricanes, floods, fires, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions worldwide.The Seabees are now aiding disaster victims of the recent Tsunami crisis.

Sam Lubell